Effective communication and information management within an aged care organisation mean that residents only need to tell their stories once instead of repeating themselves to each staff member they interact with.
By ensuring that all people involved in a resident’s care are informed about the resident’s condition, needs, goals and preferences, the workforce will be able to coordinate their care in a way that improves outcomes for all parties involved (ACQSC 2021).
On the other hand, if information about residents is not effectively communicated between staff, care mistakes and, in severe cases, harm to residents, can occur. As well as being detrimental to residents, this can also lead to reduced trust in the care team and additional stress for staff (AHRQ 2017).
In order to effectively transfer information between members of the care team, sound internal communication processes and information management systems are required within the organisation (ACQSC 2021).
There is no single universal process that all aged care providers must follow, but it’s important that the method chosen by the organisation is efficient and appropriate (ACQSC 2021).
Teamwork is a crucial part of effective communication and is associated with positive care outcomes.
The following four components of teamwork have been found to reduce errors in care:
Ensuring every member of the care team understands the protocols and plans being used
Advocating for residents and creating an environment where staff feel comfortable speaking up if they believe a resident is at risk
Understanding residents’ care plans and prioritising the right tasks
Cross-monitoring staff for errors and correcting if necessary.
Other important principles of teamwork include:
Holding regular team meetings
Using language that everyone understands
Maintaining thorough documentation
Understanding who is part of the care team at any given time
Establishing shared goals to be understood and supported by all members of the care team
Ensuring each staff member has clear roles and responsibilities
Mutual trust and respect between staff members
Ensuring communication between staff is tailored, open, honest and respectful.
(Health.vic 2015; ACSQHC 2021)
How Can Aged Care Organisations Facilitate Effective Communication?
Provide consistent services and supports and continuity of care
Coordinate services and supports effectively
Ensure all staff have correct and up-to-date information about residents
Ensure all staff have a clear understanding of information-sharing and consent legislation and policies
Provide training and orientation to support staff to effectively coordinate care
Establish an information management system that complies with relevant legislation and privacy requirements
Actively communicate with internal and external parties to ensure supports and services are provided without interruption
Monitor how staff manage and follow-up on information, including information gaps, pending and missing information
Allow relevant staff access to resident records
Communicate important information about residents to other service providers when necessary.
In order to provide safe and effective care, aged care organisations need to ensure that information about a resident’s condition, needs, goals and preferences is effectively communicated between members of the care team as well as other parties that share responsibility for the resident’s care.
This will prevent residents from constantly needing to remind staff of their needs, as well as reduce the risk of mistakes and harm from occurring.